Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Book Review - Dangerous Women

Dangerous Women – Various

I usually read a compilation over the Christmas period. Picking up and reading a short story in between the multitude of guest, days out and eating and drinking is a darn sight easier than trying to read a book. This year I was extremely excited to read Dangerous Women for a couple of reasons.

Firstly it contained a story by GRRM set in Westeros, anything set in this world is a massive must for me. Secondly, there were a couple of authors who have contributed stories, who I have wanted to read for a long time i.e Brandon Sanderson and Sam Sykes. Finally Joe Abercrombie... need I say more?

The blurb:

"Here you'll find no hapless victims who stand by whimpering in dread while the male hero fights the monster or clashes swords with the villain, and if you want to tie these women to the railroad tracks, you'll find you have a real fight on your hands.  Instead, you will find sword-wielding women warriors, intrepid women fighter pilots and far-ranging spacewomen, deadly female serial killers, formidable female superheroes, sly and seductive femmes fatale, female wizards, hard-living Bad Girls, female bandits and rebels, embattled survivors in Post-Apocalyptic futures, female Private Investigators, stern female hanging judges, haughty queens who rule nations and whose jealousies and ambitions send thousands to grisly deaths, daring dragonriders, and many more."

It is very rare for a compilation to contain a collection of excellent stories and Dangerous Women is no exception. The quality of stories here tend to range for the very good to the reasonable. It is by no means the strongest collection I have read, but there is the odd little gem. After a strong start the quality definitely takes a dip in the second half of the book.

The Excellent:

Jim Butcher - Bombshells

Despite the massive spoiler contained in the story for those of us that have not read all of the Dresden Files. This is a very good story containing a character I had not yet encountered. Molly is naive but competent, she is witty and the situation she is involved in is great. 9/10

Joe Lansdale - Wrestling Jesus

It is criminal I have not read Joe R Lansdale. Every short story I've read of his has been brilliant. This one is based on an old wrestler who mentors a victim of bullying. The old man had a tradition of wrestling an old foe every 5 years to win the favour of a woman. Great stuff and touching. 10/10

Brandon Sanderson - Shadows for silence in the forests of hell.

Great life story about the legend of Grey Fox. Who is really the patron of a homestead. She tries to collect a bounty but is betrayed and attacked by shades (ghosts). Good backstory of a hard-ass grandma. The most important thing here was that I loved Brandon’s writing.  9/10.

The following books I rated all 8 out of 10:

Some Desperado - Joe Abercrombie.
My heart is either broken - Megan Abbot.
Melinda Snodgrass - The hands that was not there.
Sharon Kay Penman - A queen in exile.

The above were all very good, the last three authors in particular I will be looking out for in future. All the other stories in the collection scored 6 or 7 with only. Only Sherrylin Kenyon’s story and S M Stirling scored lower than that. Sherrylin writes young adult fiction and her short ghost story really reads like one. It is a standard idea but needed to be fleshed out massively. It also seemed contrived just to deliver the last line. S M Stirling on the other hand just bored me to tears unfortunately.

It is worth mentioning Caroline Spector’s story here. I expected to hate her Wildcard story from the opening page, but ended up actually really enjoying it. I am not a fan of the wildcard stuff, or more it has never really captured my imagination. Caroline’s story has made me reconsider.

And that brings us on to the main event – George R R Martin’s “the princess and the queen.”

I loved GRRM's work. In my eyes the man can do little work. Whilst I would do anything to read the next instalment in his ASOIAF series the Dunk and Egg novellas have been worthy replacements. To say I was looking forward to this was an understatement.

Boy was I disappointed. Let me start of by saying that this has nothing to do with the quality of George's writing and everything with my expectations. I was expecting a novella like the aforementioned Dunk and Egg series. This is certainly not that. Instead this is an historical account of the war of the dragons. X kills Y which leads to Z joining the war who betrays A, B and C.

It is not that this isn't good material it is just that there are so many names and no emotional attachment to any of them that after a while it becomes boring. Dare I say it that the story struggled to retain my attention and was a bit of a chore. Instead I spent more time lamenting the fact that GRRM had not completed his series and started a new prequel series using this material.

It would be too harsh to say that the novel is not any good (I do struggle to see how those unfamiliar with George's world would understand what is going on though) but I was definitely looking for something different. 6/10

Overall, Dangerous Women is a mixture of quality: Some very good stories and others that it would not have harmed the novel if they weren’t included. The disappointment in the GRRM story does mar the book somewhat which is a shame.

My rating: 7/10